Rosie Millard: Tom Daley makes a bigger splash

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The Independent Online

For all the talk of our "integrated" media, the separate disciplines don't half love it when they perceive the other side to have screwed up. But never has there been a mass condemnation on the scale of how the papers received ITV's new Saturday night offering, Splash! In case you've missed it the show invites Olympic pin-up Tom Daley to teach various lardy celebrities how to dive. Oh my goodness WHAT a belly-flop, hooted the papers. The criticism of Daley stung his mother Debbie so much that yesterday she published a furious open letter to the British Swimming chief executive David Sparkes telling him that Splash! would boost, not damage the profile of diving in Britain. How right Debbie is and how very wrong the critics are. Last Saturday my entire family sat down, open-mouthed with delight, absolutely loving every moment of this show. You want Olympic legacy? How better to show Daley's extraordinary ability, and the sheer toughness of the sport, than have him teach his craft to a bunch of no-hopers.

Diving is clearly a terrifying sport, but because everything was so amazing at the Olympics there was a kind of plateau, and nowhere more so than in the diving pool. You would see someone from France perform a stupendous dive, but because the Brazilian and the Chinese chaps had just both done mind-blowingly marvellous ones, it looked pedestrian. Whereas here we have Helen Lederer, a person so against the notion of entering water head first that she has to be tipped off into it from a yoga mat, like a log leaving a carpet. When she comes to do her final offering, from the 3-metre board, Daley yells out to her. "Use the board as a pivot! Go deep into the water!" What a brilliant summation of diving. Far more instructive than any Olympic techno-speak, frankly.

It is one of TV's greatest gifts; putting the viewer right there. It is watching Philippe Petit cross the Twin Towers on a tightrope; it is witnessing Felix Baumgartner step out above the Earth. Imagine doing that.